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« On Andrew Carson's Updated Report on Job-Placement Data | Main | New Series: Things I Think I've Learned -- Thing #1, Don't be a shrinking violet »

11/14/2013

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Matt

Would this be akin to Panentheism? One problem for the view is that traditional theists (esp. Judeo-Christians) hold that God is distinct from the world in the creator/created sense. For instance, the world is contingent; God is not or the world will end one day; God will not, etc.

Elisa Freschi

Interesting point, Matt. Panentheism is surely a better definition than pantheism.
As for the criticisms you raise, on the one hand, one might reply that just like God created the world (in the "orthodox" account), so He might have created His body, which happens to be coincidental with the world (thus, contingency would be preserved); on the other, however, the scenario of a disembodied God who creates the world has something very difficult to accept. Can a disembodied entity be a "person" in the same sense as we are persons? Can a person interact with matter without a body?
Last, could not we understand the scriptural statements about the creation of the world as referring to the manifestation of His body which we know (i.e., with the Milk Way, the Sun, the Earth, etc. etc.)? Could not we think that the "end of the world" refers to the "end of *this* world", given that there are also scriptural statements about the creation of "new heavens and a new earth" (Is 65.17, Rev. 21.2) and given that our bodies will allegedly also resurrect, so that we will need again a world?

Roger

Yes, I'd say this is panentheism.

As far as the orthodox Christian account goes, I think we have to rule out the world as God's body; for, I think that the biblical accounts of creation, etc. rule this out.

If you read the first three or so chapters of Genesis, for example, you get the account of God's creating the world. This account mirrors similar accounts from other middle-eastern cultures in which the god creates the world as a sort of temple in which to be worshipped. What the god does is create the temple in stages (hence the 6 days of creation in the Genesis account), and then he places his image within the temple. According to the Christian account of things, God made humans his image bearers, and so were the image that God placed within the 'temple'.

The point is that what God created was a temple *through which* his image could be shown to the world. If the temple *itself* bears his image (since the temple would be God's body, and it seems like God would be able to use his own body to manifest his image in ways like we use our bodies (allegedly) to bear God's image), it wouldn't make much sense to have humans as his image bearers.

Moreover, according to the Christian account of things, God is *outside* (ontologically speaking--he might, e.g., be 'within' creation in another sense if he's inside of time) his creation; he's not a part of the world. This is evidenced (supposedly) by the (supposed) fact of God's having become incarnate in Jesus. This required, so the story goes, God's *breaking into* the created order. Where it used to be the case that Heaven and Earth were two sort of separate dimensions that were 'missing' each other, in Jesus, Heaven and Earth come together. (cf. NT Wright's _The Resurrection of the Son of God_.) I think, at least on the orthodox Christian view, the world is something over which God is the caretaker. But it wouldn't be appropriate to say that it *is* him (in the sense that, even if I'm a substance dualist, I might say that my body *is* me, even though I don't mean this strictly).

Additionally, why wouldn't/couldn't a disembodied entity be a person in the sense that we are persons? What does personhood have to do with embodiment?

Elisa Freschi

Roger, if you would say, as I believe you would, that for human persons being embodied is a constitutive element, and given that we might discuss about the status of persons of dolphins and the like, but we have *no* experience of disembodied persons (as are, perhaps, the angels), why are you surprised at my question? Saying that God created us "at His image", i.e., as persons, like He is, and then assuming such a big difference between our being persons and His, does this not seem problematic to you?

Roger

I would think there was a problem only if i thought that there was a big difference between God's being a person and our being persons. But, I don't think there is a big difference. I think we're persons just like God is; that is, our personhood is defined by the same characteristics as God's personhood (whatever those characteristics are, if there are any).

I guess my surprise is based on an assumption. I *assume* (but do not know) that, were God, or an angel, or a whatever, were to speak to you, you would assume that that thing speaking to you was a person. You wouldn't stop and wonder 'well, wait a second, this thing speaking to me isn't embodied; so, is it a person that's speaking to me?' No, I'd think you'd just assume, without any thought, that that thing speaking to you is a person. It is *speaking* to you, after all.

elisa freschi

Roger, of course I would assume that it is a person who is speaking to me, since S/He is speaking to me, but you know what? Speaking involves being embodied (how else could you have a voice?). I know, there might be other possible ways of accounting for that and God's power is boundless, but still it seems to me that my possible encounters with God are via His/Her having a body of some sort (be it the burning bush, or the breeze, or the voice…).

Roger

Ah, yep. Good point. Still though, why think that because all of our experiences of persons are experiences of embodied persons (what else would they be given our being embodied?), that embodiment is a necessary condition for personhood? Especially since we can imagine persons that aren't embodied (like God, or angels, or demons, or etc.).

Roger

It's been a while, but I think Aquinas held the view (or a view) that God is a *kind* of material thing, but the sort of 'material' that God is isn't the sort of material that we are. So, maybe on Thomas's view, God *is* embodied in the sense that He's a kind of material thing (in the sort of way I just mentioned).

Elisa Freschi

Thanks, I will try to trace this passage in the Summa. As for the non emobodied persons, the easy objection would be that we have *no* experience at all of them (in fact, experience somehow presupposes embodiement and even the less "corporeal" mystical experiences speak of "presences", "warmth", "light" and the like). In other words, the idea of demons, angels and of a disembodied God might be nothing more than a human construct (obtained by subtraction and due to the influence of a pre-Christian dualism). Just wondering…

Cecil Burrow

What has been ignored by everyone thus far is the divinity of the divine, and the complications that arise when the essence of an individual does not lie in its materiality but in something else. Although the standard connection between corporeality and causal potency is epistemically necessary, it is not metaphysically necessary.

Elisa Freschi


Thank you for the contribution, Cecil. I am not sure I understand your point, though.


1) by body I was hinting at a living organism (one which ensures the possibility of experience and interaction), not at matter in itself.
2) how can you be sure that the connection between corporeality and action is not metaphysically necessary?

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